Readers offer help to free car ministry to break cycle of poverty
Community members are helping lift up a West Akron man whose ministry is to help provide free cars to help others break the cycle of poverty.
Harvey Bryant Sr.,one of the winners in the Health Disparities Project, has been quietly fixing and giving away cars to friends and strangers as part of his Miracles on Wheels ministry. His ministry was featured in a May 23 column.
Bryant was inspired when he saw a young mother struggling to get on a bus with two small children. He thought about the barriers and extra struggles she had, which could be eased with a reliable car.
But Bryant, a former city of Akron sewer maintenance worker and Akron police department reserve officer who now works as a security guard, is not a trained mechanic. He uses YouTube to learn what he doesn’t know and works on cars for months at a time trying to get them up and running. Sometimes, he’ll take a car that he can’t fix and sell it for scrap metal to use the money to buy another car to fix up and give away.
He and his wife, Michelle, were mostly funding their ministry, with the help of some family and friends. But Bryant said while he had big ideas for his ministry, he didn’t have the skills to create a nonprofit and register for 501(c)3 status, which could open up his ministry to grants.
Bryant said his ministry could grow bigger and help more people if others with the skill sets he didn’t have, including mechanics, could offer their assistance. He was also looking for a place to store the various cars he has that have been donated and are awaiting repair.
“Everybody needs somebody to lift them up and to be a blessing. Everybody can be a blessing,” Bryant said at the time. “That car can be a blessing to someone and change their whole life instantly.”
Readers respond with aid, expertise to help end poverty
After the column, readers responded. Bryant said he got 28 donations totaling more than $3,800. Four people donated vehicles that need work and can be used for the ministry.
He also got offers of help for auto work, to incorporate his nonprofit and register as a 501(c)3 and to build a website.
“I’m so grateful and happy about the outcome,” said Bryant. He also had about 12 people reach out to say they needed cars. He hopes to be able to help them all.
Auto help from KB Automotive Technology in Cuyahoga Falls
Bill Harrison, owner of KB Automotive Technology in Cuyahoga Falls, offered Bryant 10 hours of free labor a week and a place to store about four to five cars.
“It sounded like he was looking for somebody to help out,” said Harrison, who has owned the two-bay garage off Chestnut Boulevard since 2017. “The guy was trying, but not an actual mechanic. There’s a limit there.
“We’ve got some downtime between jobs, so it never hurts to help,” Harrison said. “I’ve got an extra mechanic who needs some training time.”
Harrison is currently working on a truck that Bryant was going to sell for scrap metal. Instead, Harrison can fix it. He also saw that Bryant was trying to learn how to fix a ball joint on another car before spending $250 to rent the piece of equipment to fix it.
Harrison said he has the equipment to fix the ball joint.
“He seems like he’s trying to do a good thing. I understand the struggle trying to fix cars without the right equipment,” said Harrison.
Harrison said he often gets abandoned cars once the owner decides the needed repairs aren’t worth it. Harrison said he plans to donate those cars to Bryant’s ministry instead of selling the car for scrap metal.
Harrison recently showed Bryant a nice 2012 Buick LaCrosse sedan that had been abandoned by its owner. It had 20,000 miles on it, but the owner had never had the oil changed. It damaged the engine.
Bryant said that was why he was offering free classes before the pandemic to women to teach them how to care for their cars. Harrison told Bryant they should have the classes at the garage “to show them here.”
Another auto shop, Mackey Auto Care on East Market in Akron, also reached out and is offering work on Bryant’s vehicles at a big discount.
Nonprofit status and website help
With some help on cars handled, Bryant is also getting help to form his 501(c)3 and website.
Mark Ferris of Norton is a former certified public accountant who now runs an accounting staffing firm.
He called Bryant and offered to help him incorporate his ministry with the state so he could form his nonprofit. Ferris applied for a tax ID number, which he’ll then hand over to his sister-in-law, who is a corporate attorney and can help apply for the 501(c)3 status.
“I believe people should help each other,” said Ferris. “I’m an avid reader of Car and Driver. They did an article about people who have cars versus people who don’t have cars. The income disparity is crazy.
“I told Harvey when I met him, ‘I think you’ve found the answer,’” Ferris said.
“I just wanted to help the guy. I think he’s doing a really good thing,” he said.
But Ferris said he’s a car enthusiast, not a mechanic.
Ferris reached out to Joyce Gilbert, who helped him make his website years ago, to see if she’d help Bryant make a website for his ministry.
Gilbert, of Wooster, hadn’t talked to Ferris in probably 10 years, she said.
“I was just the one that came to mind when he needed a website to reach out with this big story of what Harvey was doing,” Gilbert told me. “That’s what definitely got my attention.”
Once Gilbert read about Bryant’s ministry, she said she was pleased to offer her help for free.
She hasn’t yet seen the materials that Bryant wants on the website, but assumes it will be a fairly basic website that she can do in her spare time since she has a full-time job.
“I feel like this is an area where I have been equipped to be able to help, so I’m glad to do it,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said she likes being part of a bigger plan to help others.
Ferris paid the $99 to incorporate Miracles on Wheels and $28 for two years of a domain name for the website.
He asked Bryant how big he wanted his ministry to get. Bryant said “as big as it can.”
Ferris said “this thing could literally take off.”
Ferris also offered to help Bryant keep his books and file a tax return “as long as it stays small. If it starts getting busy for me, I have a day job. But I have a lot of contacts and may go begging.”
“I did this because I am Christian and I believe we should help each other,” Ferris said.
Keeping the momentum going
Want to help?
Bryant still welcomes help from others, including those with automotive experience and a place to store the cars, assistance towing vehicles and people to let him know where they might see cars that could be donated to the ministry.
He’d still like to partner with schools to give students cars to work on for his ministry. He’d love to start a program to train people coming out of prison with a skill that could get them a job and help his ministry.
To inquire about donating or receiving assistance, contact Miracles on Wheels at firstname.lastname@example.org or 234-738-3016.
Beacon Journal staff reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or email@example.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ. To see her most recent stories and columns, go to www.tinyurl.com/bettylinfisher.
Health Disparities Project
The Health Disparities Project, which Betty Lin-Fisher started with a $3,000 reporting grant and recognizes grassroots group in Akron working to solve the problem of racism as a public health issue. In total, a group of community judges have awarded more than $10,000 thanks to donations from readers. To read more about the project, go to www.tinyurl.com/ABJHealthDisparities